By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 12, 2007
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) plunged into the 2008 presidential race yesterday, an admitted dark-horse candidate for the Democratic nomination who nonetheless said his experience and record qualify him to lead the country at a time of terrorism abroad and economic insecurities at home.
He began his campaign in outspoken opposition to President Bush's newly announced plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq in an effort to quell the violence there. Dodd said he backs a proposal by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) that would prevent Bush from deploying any new troops until specifically authorized by Congress.
Dodd voted for the October 2002 congressional resolution authorizing the war, but he said that measure is obsolete, given how radically the U.S. mission in Iraq has changed since the invasion. He said the new policy will not work. "We have an obligation, before the troops are sent, to vote against it," he said in a telephone interview.
But he said he will not vote to cut off funds for the additional troops once they are deployed. "I'm not going to cut off funds to kids who are sitting in harm's way," he said. "That's why this debate has to happen before they're sent."
Dodd, one of the Senate's leading liberals, is a former general chairman of the Democratic National Committee and has served in Congress for more than three decades. But he begins his bid for the White House overshadowed by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Both are expected to make their intentions known by the end of the month, with Obama's decision coming as early as next week.
Dodd said he is realistic about his campaign but stressed that, given the challenges the country faces, voters will put a premium on experience and leadership in selecting the next president. "On every major foreign policy and domestic debate of the last quarter-century, I've been there," Dodd said. "I happen to believe this time around that matters, that you demonstrably can get things done."
Dodd joins three other Democrats who have begun their campaigns. Outgoing Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack declared his candidacy in November. Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) launched his campaign two weeks ago and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio), a candidate in 2004, is also seeking the nomination.
After filing his campaign papers, Dodd left for a campaign swing to Iowa, and he plans a trip to South Carolina this weekend. Both states have early contests in 2008.
Dodd said he has about $5 million to transfer into his presidential campaign fund. His advisers believe he can raise $30 million to $35 million for the 2008 primaries and caucuses. That pales in comparison with what many strategists believe Clinton and Obama may be able to raise, but Dodd and his advisers believe it will be enough to compete seriously in the early states.
Dodd said he was motivated to compete for the nomination out of a fear that, without effective leadership in the country, future generations will be less secure. "I wasn't going to sit in the bleachers on this one," he said.
Dodd took the unusual step of announcing his candidacy on the "Imus in the Morning" radio program, partly, he said, because he has been doing interviews with host Don Imus for 14 years. But there was a practical political reason as well: Imus was willing to give him more airtime. "Condi Rice was going to do the 'Today Show,' " Dodd said. "CBS said they would give me three minutes. I got 20 minutes on Imus."